The term “bedsore” doesn’t fully capture the seriousness of the condition itself. These pressure ulcers, as they are also called, are not just red marks that will go away on their own. If left untreated, bedsores can eat away at a person’s skin, muscle and bone.  Not only might this cause serious harm, it is also quite painful and can lead to life-threatening complications.

Fortunately, prevention and early treatment can help. But if you have a loved one in a nursing home, what symptoms should you look for?

The 4 stages of a pressure ulcer

Medical literature generally categorizes pressure ulcers into four distinct grades, or stages. Grade one is the least severe, while grade four is the most serious. The four grades are:

  1. The impacted skin is discolored – either red, blue or purple – and does not turn white when pressed. At this stage, the skin is not broken.
  2. The pressure ulcer has damaged and opened the upper layers of skin, leading to an appearance similar to an open wound or blister.
  3. The entirety of the skin in the affected area is gone, revealing additional tissue. However, the muscle and bone are not yet damaged.
  4. The tissue around the ulcer begins to die, as the wound begins to damage muscle and bone. This is a severe medical condition and can quickly lead to a life-threatening infection.

Bedsores usually develop on areas of the body that feel constant pressure. Oftentimes these are areas with prominent bones, such as the elbows, hips, shoulders, back and backside of the head. If you see any signs of a stage one bedsore, it is important to get care as soon as possible.

How many nursing home patients develop bedsores?

With proper care, bedsores can easily be prevented. This includes checking a patient’s at-risk areas daily, repositioning them frequently, keeping their skin clean and dry, and providing proper nutrition.

Too often, nursing home facilities fail in this responsibility.

An estimated one in every 10 nursing home patients has a pressure ulcer, according to one study. Half of these pressure ulcers have reached stage two by the time they are discovered.

Improper care is a form of nursing home neglect. When a family agrees to trust the well-being of their loved one to a facility, they shouldn’t have to worry about the threat of preventable ailments, such as bedsores.